Brian Herring displays a rack of ribs he’s cooking for lunch at his restaurant Hogs, Hens and Heifers. (Staff Photo: Karen Rohr)
When Tony Cantrell first tried his son-in-law’s barbecue, he had all the requisite sauces set out to enhance the flavor of the meat. Once he tasted the ribs, he pushed all those sauces to the side.
The delicious meat fell right off the bone, said Cantrell, and he wanted to enjoy the flavor all by itself.
The Conyers resident has so much faith in his son-in-law Brian Herring’s barbecue talents that he’s decided to go into business with him. The two opened Hogs, Hens and Heifers Bar-B-Que a few weeks ago at 1191 Irwin Bridge Road, near the intersection of Irwin Bridge and South Main Street, in Conyers.
The restaurant serves a variety of barbecue meats including pulled pork, chicken, brisket and ribs, as well as Brunswick stew and sides such as French fries, hush puppies, baked beans, potato salad, coleslaw, macaroni and cheese and collard greens.
When asked which meat is his specialty, Herring doesn’t hesitate to provide a quick, matter-of-fact answer.
“To be honest with you, I don’t think I have a bad one,” said Herring, who added that seasoning and knowing how much smoke to put into the meat are key factors in the taste.
Herring starts cooking his butts and briskets between 8 and 9 p.m. each night and comes back to the restaurant at 5 a.m. to get the ribs on by 6 a.m. and chicken on at 8 a.m. He cooks in a commercial rotisserie smoker built into the side of a trailer, out in the back of the restaurant.
“I try to cook for the crowd I’m going to have that day,” said Herring.
Herring’s been learning how to barbecue since childhood. He remembers as a teenager tending to meat in the barbecue pit — made of cinder blocks, a metal grate and a sheet metal cover — at night when his father and his friends fell asleep after cooking.
The 37-year-old started competing in Kansas City Barbeque Society-sanctioned events with his father, and his father’s doctor, in the early 2000s. They called themselves the Family Porktitioners, and they traveled all over the Southeast.
While his dad, Mike “Stick” Herring, and the doctor competed, Brian Herring cooked additional meat in a trailer and sold it at the festivals.
Herring works in construction, but because of the slow economy, work has been scarce, prompting Cantrell to propose the barbecue restaurant idea.
The two have worked to renovate a 1960s ranch-style house (which has been a restaurant several times in the past) into a homey, welcoming and simple barbecue joint. The restaurant seats 20 in several different rooms.
A “100” health inspection report hangs on the wall just above the front counter.
“We’re shooting for this all the time,” said Cantrell of the score.
Herring said, despite the location, which is a bit off the beaten path, he’s already had repeat customers.
“I know that if I can get them in here, they’ll come back. I’m that confident in my product,” said Herring.
Hogs, Hens and Heifers is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The restaurant can be reached at 770-860-1149 or on Facebook.